Xbox Goes Rogue in February With Strong Free Legacy Downloads
After February, Xbox’s primary competition in the subscription service will stop offering legacy titles in their slate of monthly freebies, continuing their avoidance of compatibility with previous gaming generations. Among the consoles available now, Microsoft’s current iteration of the Xbox One could easily be considered the most flexible and feature-rich in terms of backwards compatibility, even going so far as to visually upgrade several games from two generations back; seriously, you should give Morrowind a look. Sensing an opening, they decided to strike while the iron’s hot this month and offer two spectacular games from previous generations, one from a popular gaming franchise and another from a … well, popular in everything franchise. Thing is, by doing so, they’ve also delivered some lackluster and forgettable current titles, making the month fizzle out instead of hammering it home.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (February 1-28)
Comparisons are often drawn between side-scrolling action games and the likes of Castlevania, but that’s far more relevant when talking about Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and its clear inspirations. Brought to us by the same studio who’ve made countless Mega Man titles, this straight-up feels like a sequel or spinoff to the original NES games … as it should, considering Castlevania mastermind Koji Igarashi had a hand in the production and supervision. The third installment in that franchise, also the last one to appear on the NES, serves as a foundation of sorts for the action gameplay, in which a swordsman hunts down the demons who bequeathed him with a curse. Very familiar gameplay mix with beautifully-done pixel graphics to form into just the right kind of fix for those who have been needing this kind of game, and multiple endings — one only unlocked under certain circumstances, after beating the game once — ensure loads of bloody good replayability.
Super Bomberman R (February 16-March 15)
So, uh, what was Konami doing while they weren’t developing a new Castlevania game? Well, one thing they concentrated on is a new iteration of their action-puzzle maze franchise, Super Bomberman R. The first one released in almost a decade, it brings the Bomberman formula up to current-gen standards, coming at the grid-based level design from a tile-shift photography viewpoint: the visual trick technique that make real things look like toys. Mechanics remain almost the same, though, where the main character drops bombs, clears obstacles, and defeats enemies ether alone or with a co-op partner, and competitive play enables bombers from all over the world to compete in 8-person battles. The critical consensus recommends against getting into the single-player aspects of the game, though, as the story mode and battles against the AI without other humans can be endlessly frustrating.
Xbox 360 / Original Xbox
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (February 1-15)
Most fans of the Assassin’s Creed franchise have ultimately settled on one installment that they find to be their favorite. However, when you chat a little more with them, they’ll actually tell you which ones do certain things better than others: AC2 for its protagonist, Brotherhood for its variety, Black Flag for pirates-‘n-ships (naval warfare). There’s another comment you’ll keep hearing from devotees, and that’s that Assassin’s Creed: Rogue has the best story of ’em all. Mostly, they’re right. In the other games, the characters and the setting tend to drive the exploration, but the tale of assassin Shay Patrick Cormac’s assimilation into the ranks of the villainous Templar order informs the narrative at every stab, shot, and leap of faith along the way. Granted, the gameplay mirrors that of Black Flag almost to a fault, but that’s not a knock when the stealth, inventory, and naval battlespace are as well-executed as they are in that installment … and when the storytelling’s this good.
Star Wars Jedi Knights: Jedi Academy
The climate two console generations ago resulted in something of a renaissance for videogames set in the Star Wars universe, giving us Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront, and Rogue Squadron KOTOR established a reputation for being “the” Star Wars game for the Xbox, which cast a wide shadow over the console’s other exclusive series: Jedi Knight, a distant relative of the classic Dark Forces PC game from the mid-‘90s and more action-based alternative to the RPG nature of KOTOR. The third installment, Star Wars Jedi Knights: Jedi Academy, puts a saber in the hands of a customizable student at Luke Skywalker’s training academy, who embarks on missions across the galaxy after the grounds gets attacked by the Empire. Changeable first-person and third-person perspectives (except for wielding a lightsaber, which is only in third-person) guide the player through the kind of immediate, empowering action one might’ve wanted out of KOTOR, with similar Light vs. Dark reactivity based around the player’s choices.